If there is one policy that the Republicans are identified with more than any other, it is their commitment never to raise taxes - ever - on anyone - by any means. So goes the Grover Norquist pledge. When Chief Justice John Roberts called the individual mandate in the ACA a "tax" in order to uphold President Obama's historic health care reform, the Republican propagandists had a field day, as we all know. And when Mitt Romney briefly stepped out of line to call the mandate something else instead of a tax, he was quickly whipped back in by no less than Rupert Murdoch himself, along with a chorus of other right wing king makers.
So whatever other faults the Republicans may have on other issues, at least they will never, ever, raise taxes on anybody, right? Just read their lips. Actually it turns out that there is just a slight exception to their pledge. If you are not one of the wealthy few who would benefit the most from extending the George W. Bush tax cuts, which the Republicans are fighting tooth and nail to make permanent, but you are just an ordinary American who works for a living, then your payroll taxes will go up.
At least, this is according to a proposal by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch called the "Tax Hike Prevention Act of 2013", co-sponsored by the Republican Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell. As Ezra Klein describes it in washingtonpost.com (July 25), the Republican proposal would extend the Bush tax cuts, but not the payroll tax cuts which were originally part of President Obama's stimulus.
Why would allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire be a tax increase, but allowing payroll tax cuts for ordinary working people to expire not be a tax increase? The Republicans' answer is simple: the law cutting payroll taxes was not a "tax reduction". It was a "stimulus" Therefore eliminating the payroll tax reduction would not be a "tax increase" - it would merely be ending a stimulus. Get it?
Besides, the stimulus was only meant to be temporary anyway, wasn't it? Sure - exactly like the Bush tax cuts. Then what is the real difference between the Bush tax cuts and Obama's payroll tax reduction? Only one thing. The Bush tax cuts were skewed toward helping wealthy Republican campaign contributors, while the Obama payroll tax reductions were meant to help the average person.
Does this Republican elitism on taxes carry over into the area of immigration? In a recent comment, I took a look at Mitt Romney's website section on immigration. I pointed out that as far as the highly skilled and educated foreign elite are concerned, especially those with math, science and engineering degrees, Romney is promising to make visas and green cards easier. This is all well and good. There has to be a change in the Obama administration's irrational hostility toward the best and the brightest immigrants, who have such great potential to boost America's economy and competitiveness in the world.
If Romney is sincere about changing this climate of suspicion and paranoia, good for him. Of course, if he is elected, he will need to sit down and have a friendly chat with the two most powerful Republicans in Congress on immigration policy - Senator Charles Grassley and Representative Lamar Smith - behind closed doors of course. LOL with that.
But those would most likely not be the only closed doors it the Republicans take over the White House and both houses of Congress next January. The doors to America would in all probability start to slam shut against all other immigrants, including the great majority of less affluent ones without engineering, math, science or other specialized degrees. To appreciate this, let's flash back to the failed Kennedy-McCain immigration reform bill of 2007. As everyone will remember, that bill started off as a bipartisan proposal to bring millions of unauthorized immigrants out of the shadows and give them some form of legal status, upon certain conditions.
Under a series of Republican amendments, however, the conditions became stricter until it no longer became clear if anyone could comply with them all. At the same time, on the legal immigration side, with the Republican amendments the bill became elitist almost to the point of farce. Family immigration quotas would have been cut drastically (in order to reduce "chain immigration" - definition: immigration by Latinos and other brown people).
The entire employment based immigration system as we know it would have been scrapped, to be replaced by a point system. However, unlike the Canadian and Australian point systems which are by and large working quite well in promoting real diversity and equality of opportunity in those countries, the Republican point system would have been skewed in favor of advanced degree holders who were fluent in English. Get it?
Of course, as we all know the 2007 "reform" bill went down in flames, ignited by the "No Amnesty For Illegals" crowd. We may need to thank Lou Dobbs for saving our current employment and family based legal immigration system, which at least works for many people, despite all its faults.
But all this took place before the Tea Party, before Arizona's SB 1070 immigration law, and Alabama's even worse one; before most people had heard about Kris Kobach or even Sheriff Joe, before Mitt Romney's kind invitation to Latino immigrants to "self-deport", and before the Republican movement to take away 14th Amendment birthright US citizenship from millions of minority American-born children.
To be fair, it was also at a time when deportations were amounting to only 250,000 per year, not 400,000, as under our current Deporter in Chief. But while there are at least some Democrats who favor genuine immigration reform, and a dialogue of sorts is at least possible with this administration - not everything is behind closed doors - the Republican face of immigration is clear:
Visas and green cards will be available for an elite few (si qua Grassley et Smith sinant - to paraphrase Virgil), and there will be enforcement only for everyone else. That is our choice - a seriously defective system which many average immigrants can still live with under the Democrats; or, under the Republicans, a draconian one under which only a small elite can hope to survive.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.